Romanticism and Modernism as Strange Bedfellows: A Fresh Look of Jack Kerouac’s
On the Road Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very Heaven! O time
In which the meagre, stale, forbidding ways
Of custom, law and statute, took at once
The attraction of a Country in Romance! The Prelude—William Wordsworth
(Come in under the shadow of this rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening striding to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust. The Waste Land—T. S. Eliot On 2 April 1951, in a loft in New York City, Jack Kerouac fed 120 feet of Japanese drawing paper into his typewriter, and for the …show more content…
. . he created a new symbol of flaming American youth, the American hero of the Beat Generation” (33). This same “flaming hero” was found in other facets of American culture, more specifically in American cinema, with the likes of Marlon Brando and James Dean. However, even Moriarty’s flame would flicker at the conclusion of the novel where he is depicted as a gaunt figure in “a motheaten overcoat” (306) without a car, walking alone in the frigid New York night.
The next subject is the west, the American symbol of autonomy and freedom. The west and its wild, unbridled spirit have been celebrated as an American utopia in literature, lore, song and cinema. Paradise states early on “the stars seemed to get brighter the more we climbed the High Plains. We were in Wyoming. Flat on my back, I stared straight up at the magnificent firmament, glorying in the time I was making” (30). Even the popular music of the time focused on the romantic concept of moving west. In his essay, “Free Ways and Straight Roads,” Lars Larsen notes how in the late 1940s, “Nat ‘King’ Cole’s version of Bobby Troupe’s ‘Route 66’ helped redefine Steinbeck’s grim migrant road as a place of ‘kicks’” (37). However, the west was not exactly the west of Paradise’s dreams. Not only is Sal disillusioned by the mass commercialism of a Wild West festival, but he spends two weeks in a migrant camp in California in abject poverty living on fresh picked grapes before fleeing
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During the 20th century, the people of America had to adjust to new desires, lifestyles, and the new materialistic economy. After entering World War I, the aftermath included false positives that in the end, turned out to be complete negatives. Citizens of America possessed materialistic beliefs that led to disappointments. African Americans were confronted by atrocious social conditions. The frustrations faced by many Americans living in the 1920s, included the desires for materialistic possessions in hopes of contentment, the aspirations for freedom and the dignified need for racial equality, are all elucidated in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story, “Winter Dreams”, and both poems, “Democracy” by Langston Hughes and “The White House” by Claude Mckay.
Life, liberty, freedom, equality, opportunity, and so many other words have been used to describe the United States of America. Every American child grows up with the words “the land of the free” pounded into their heads, and every morning schools declare America as a place of “liberty and justice for all.” Such inflated rhetoric presents America with large shoes to fill. Thus, America’s shortcomings should not be surprising. Langston Hughes and Upton Sinclair were two 20th Century writers, who saw past this idealistic talk and saw the jungle that the United States really was. Langston Hughes wrote in his poem “Let America be America Again”, “Let America be America again. –Let it be the dream it used to be. –Let it be the pioneer on the plain –Seeking a home where himself is free. –(America was never America to me) (1).” He highlights not only the experience of African Americans during the 1930s, but identifies with other oppressed groups including immigrants writing, “I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—And finding only the same old stupid plan –Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.” Likewise, Upton Sinclair conveyed his repulsion to immigrant oppression during the Industrial Revolution in his book The Jungle, emphasizing the gullibility behind trusting the grandiloquence of the American dream.
One of the best ways to fully understand an era is to study its literature. The printed word has the incredible capacity to both reflect and shape the hopes, fears, and ideologies of the time. This is very evident when reading literature from 1960's America, a turbulent period in the history of our country. While the authors' styles are very different, there are definite thematic patterns and characteristics evident in many of their works. For one, there is a prevalent concept of the unenlightened masses. This concept serves as a foil for the enlightened few often represented as the main characters and more specifically as the authors themselves. There also
In 1920s, America undergoes a period of cultural and social revolution. After the shocks by the chaos and violence of WWI, with a burst of economy which brought unprecedented levels of prosperity to the country, the generation turned into a lifestyle of wild and extravagant. Both published in 1925, the time when the jazz age at it’s peak, “The great Gatsby” by Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald and “Soldier’s Home” by Ernest Hemingway depict the fragmentation of the soared society by narrating the experience of characters.
Such clashing ideologies of the Vietnam War are portrayed with tragic consequences within American Pastoral, due to the American Dream swiftly dying amid social turmoil and belonging to the nostalgia of the previous generations. With the emergence of protesting counterculture and the burgeoning Civil Rights movement, the narrative of American Pastoral eventually examines the inherent violence contained within the idealized American Dream, as well as depicting the nightmarish destruction of the social order.
It was a 1951 TIME cover story, which dubbed the Beats a ‘Silent Generation, ’ that led to Allen Ginsberg’s retort in his poem ‘America,’ in which he vocalises a frustration at this loss of self- importance. The fifties Beat Generation, notably through Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and Allen Ginsberg’s Howl as will here be discussed, fought to revitalise individuality and revolutionise their censored society which seemed to produce everything for the masses at the expense of the individual’s creative and intellectual potential. Indeed, as John Clellon Holmes once noted: “TIME magazine called them the Silent Generation, but this may have been because TIME was not
Walt Whitman, a great American poet to be compared to Emily Dickinson and Edgar Allan Poe, exists at the heart of American culture. Whitman’s work has not lost its appeal because it still applies to America in the new millennia; America is still deeply troubled by issues of division, hypocrisy, and racism—much unlike the America of inclusion and forbearance Whitman envisioned for American in Leaves of Grass. Although Leaves of Grass is often considered Whitman’s most influential work, Whitman spent eighty-five chapters of his autobiography discussing his war experiences, even though his life through 1860 seemed to be the years crucial to the background of Leaves. When considering Whitman’s view that the war
The turbulent societal changes of the mid-20th Century have been documented in countless forms of literature, film and art. On the Road by Jack Kerouac was written and published at the outset of the counter-culture movement of the 1950s and 1960s. This novel provides a first-hand account of the beginnings of the Beat movement and acts as a harbinger for the major societal changes that would occur in the United States throughout the next two decades. On the contrary, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, a Hunter S. Thompson novel written in 1971 provides a commentary on American society at the end of the counter-culture movement. Thompson reflects on the whirlwind of political and social activism he experienced and how American society had
Both Walt Whitman’s “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” and Sui Sin Far’s “Mrs. Spring Fragrance” speak of the nature of democracy in American society. While Whitman celebrates democracy as a unifying system of belief in America through his use of poetic form and by asserting the individual as part of a collective whole, Sui exposes the hypocrisy of it by demonstrating the discrepancy between democratic political rhetoric and the realities of the immigrant experience in America. In “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry”, Whitman asserts the individual’s sense of self while seeing them as part of a fluid and shifting ensemble. He contemplates his place as an individual amidst the great flood of humanity, one that makes him feel “disintegrated” (89).
Cormac McCarthy’s The Road is his post-apocalyptic magnus opus which combines a riveting plot along with an unconventional prose style. Released in 2006, the novel has won awards such as the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award (Wilson). Oprah Winfrey also selected the book for her book club ("Cormac McCarthy”). The author, Cormac McCarthy, was born in 1933 in Rhode Island and is said to have wrote the novel because of his son and their relationship. The Road centers around a boy and his father while they try to survive after an unknown disaster occurs. While some people may argue that the unusual style takes away from the novel, it adds to the tone and meaning of the work.
Jack Kerouac was one of a group of young men who, immediately after the Second World War, protested against what they saw as the blandness, conformity and lack of cultural purpose of middle-class life in America. The priorities of people of their age, in the mainstream of society, were to get married, to move the suburbs, to have children and to accumulate wealth and possessions. Jack Kerouac and his friends consciously rejected this pursuit of stability and instead looked elsewhere for personal fulfillment. They were the Beats, the pioneers of a counterculture that came to be known as the Beat Generation. The Beats saw mainstream life as a prison. They wanted freedom, the freedom to pick up and go at a moments notice. This search for
Jack Kerouac is considered a legend in history as one of America's best and foremost Beat Generation authors. The term "Beat" or "Beatnic" refers to the spontaneous and wandering way of life for some people during the period of postwar America, that seemed to be induced by jazz and drug-induced visions. "On the Road" was one such experience of Beatnic lifestyle through the eyes and heart of Jack Kerouac. It was a time when America was rebuilding after WW I. Describing the complexity and prosperity of the postwar society was not Karouac's original intent. However, this book described it a way everyone could visualize. It contained examples and experiences of common people looking for new and exciting
Jack Kerouac is the first to explore the world of the wandering hoboes in his novel, On the Road. He created a world that shows the lives and motivations of this culture he himself named the 'Beats.' Kerouac saw the beats as people who rebel against everything accepted to gain freedom and expression. Although he has been highly criticized for his lack of writing skills, he made a novel that is both realistic and enjoyable to read. He has a complete disregard for developed of plot or characters, yet his descriptions are incredible. Kerouac?s novel On the Road defined the post World War II generation known as the 'beats.'
A disillusioned youth roams the country without truly establishing himself in one of the many cities he falls in love with. In doing so, he manages with the thought or presence of his best friend. What is he searching for? While journeying on the road, Sal Paradise is not searching for a home, a job, or a wife. Instead, he longs for a mental utopia offered by Dean Moriarty. This object of his brotherly love grew up in the streets of America. Through the hardships of continuously being shuffled from city to city, Dean has encompassed what is and what is not important in life. While driving back to Testament in the '49 Hudson, Dean propositions Sal through an appeal to emotion. In passing